The true story of an Indie Therapy Dog
I was so tired of living on the street, eating from dustbins and looking for scraps of food thrown out here and there. And of course, being attacked by other dogs who were much stronger than me; I was nothing but a bag of bones , as the saying goes. My stomach hurt with emptiness, and I had lost most of my hair. Mange, as I later discovered. People would avoid me with disgust on their faces – and many of them tried to hit me or drive me away, when all I wanted was a morsel of food and a little love. Every day was a new source of misery for me. Once, when I was sleeping under a car, it started moving before I realised, and ran over my leg. Oh, the pain! And no one to comfort or help me. “ Dirty creature. Shoo! Get out” people would shout. “Get away from us. You don’t belong here, baldy!” the other dogs would snarl. I didn’t belong here? Then where DID I belong? I used to hang out, lonely and sad, further down the road. I was SO tired of life, and living on the street…….
And then one day the miracle happened!
As I was creeping along, staying close to the wall for safety and shelter, a white car drew up near me. Out came two ladies with bowls of food and water in their hands! I half started to run, and then I saw their kind faces and heard their gentle voices. I was a little nervous. But I was also hungry. I ate until I could eat no more, and then they said “See you tomorrow”. Hope springs eternal in the doggy breast! Please come! My eyes pleaded, Please come.
I learned afterwards that these ladies had seen me at night some weeks ago. For some reason, they said, they were haunted by the sight of me, alone, mangy and starving. And they spent weeks looking for me. However, our paths never crossed.
But when they had nearly given up – they saw me!! And my life changed forever.
And so, they would come to my street corner every day, and my tummy was full at last, and I grew to love them, and I’m sure they loved me
Then one morning, I was in for a surprise. Another lady picked me up and took me to the hospital for treatment. My humans were distraught when they found me missing again – but the watchman of a nearby building told them what had happened, and they located this lady who said she’d bring me back once my mange was cured.
A few weeks later, I was much better. My hair had grown again, strong and healthy, and the kind lady put me back on the street. I was scared. I didn’t want to leave the hospital. Had my two human friends forgotten me by now? Would it be hunger and loneliness again for me? My heart sank. And then… I saw a white car nosing its way around the corner and….I jumped up, wagging my joy! And the car stopped near me and there they were, calling me to come and eat…
And that very moment, they told me they didn’t want to lose me again, and put me in the car and became my human family.
My life had turned a new page: I was living in a house…. “ Oh my beautiful dog …You are looking much better!” (Beautiful? Ok, I’d accept that! The whole world is beginning to look beautiful!)). I had everything I wanted, including new sisters to play with, who did not growl and fight with me. Life was good, and I did everything I could to show my family how grateful I was to them and how much I loved them.
As I grew more and more secure in my new home, my personality started to blossom, and …. yes, I have to admit it, I started becoming a little naughty. That happens when you’re happy, right? I love all my sisters, but my BFF is definitely Sunshine. She’s only a year younger than me, whereas all the others are oldies of 10 and 11. The trouble is, she’s so tiny, she comes only halfway up my leg! We love to play, but my family is always scared that I will hurt her, since I’m so much bigger. ME? Hurt HER? Let me tell you, if anyone hurts anyone, it’s likely to be the other way round. She’s got quite a temper, my BFF, and when we play, and I irritate her, she pounces on me and screams at me in her shrill, screechy voice – and that petrifies me! I dash off and hide behind something until she calms down. And I don’t really like it when everyone laughs at me – but, what’s a dog to do? There are times when I’d really love to pick her up by the scruff of the neck and shake some sense into her! But at the end of the day, we cuddle up together, and all our fights are forgotten!
Now … I have a secret to confess! I am a nag! I love to nag my family. Especially for my medicines. Yes! You read right. Let me explain.
I told you that a car had run over my leg when I was on the street. Well, it left me with a slight weakness in that leg. It hurts me a little, especially in cold or wet weather. I’m taking homeopathic medicines for arthritis to help me, and I feel so much better!
Now those homeopathic medicines are really yummy!! They taste sweet and I love them! AND I get them 4 times a day! The problem is, my Mamas are now senior citizens and they’re getting old and forgetful. It’s a real problem for me. They sometimes forget to give me my delicious meds. How can they?!!! I mean, it’s like forgetting to have dessert or mithai !! So, as soon as medicine time comes round, I jump up on the bed, or run to wherever they are, and I sit hunched up, right in front of them, with my head hanging down. That’s my way of saying “Hey guys! Haven’t you forgotten something?” And if they are still too busy or too silly to understand, I give them a nudge with my nose or my paw. Then one of them will look up, glance at the clock and say “Oh my goodness, Lucky! Your medicines!” Hmph! REMEMBER next time, will you?
The first monsoon after I was adopted, I was horrified to see one of my Mamas advancing towards me with an awful blue, plastic thing “Look, Lucky, your raincoat!” she cooed. Raincoat?!!! No self respecting street dog would be seen dead in a raincoat!!! We love the feel of the rain on our fur – it makes us feel clean and fresh again! But I suppose this is the downside of being a house dog. The ghastly blue thing was put on me, and fastened with all kinds of strings and cords. And when it was done, all the humans in the house kept oohing and aahing and saying how lovely it looked. They didn’t see my sisters rolling on the floor with laughter! I looked and felt like a fool! I racked my brains to work out some way of getting out of this humiliating situation. And then I got it! I just wouldn’t pee and poop outside as long as that dreadful blue thing was on me! I’d hold it in, and I’d burst if I had to! Oh, it was tough! But it worked! The disgusting raincoat was put away for ever, and now I go for my walks in the rain under the protection of a huge umbrella!! Victory is sweet!
After 6 years of love and joy, a new chapter of my life began. My family contacted the Animal Angels Foundation, where therapy dogs help so many people, children and adults, who are physically or mentally challenged, or sometimes just shy or insecure and need a little love and a happy wag of the tail. Much to my delight, I was chosen as a therapy dog, as I had a calm, gentle temperament, and before I knew it, I was an Animal Angel under training.
My first day “on the job” was awesome! I went with Aditi, my co-therapist, and my family, to a school with a big playground. On the lawns, I met a group of mentally challenged children – and they were so interested in me! They crowded around, wanting to meet and touch me. A few even took me for a short walk on the lead! Some of them were scared of me, but I wagged my tail and gave them a big smile (Of course dogs can smile!) to tell them “I love you! I’m not going to hurt you!” And slowly they understood that I was their friend.
Next, we went indoors and I met another group of hearing impaired children. They used sign language to speak, which is something I hadn’t seen before! They sat in a semi circle and I went from one to the other, and they wrote their names on my back! It tickled and I smiled even more, and wagged my tail. This was so much fun! And how they all patted and fussed over me! I’m looking forward to meeting them again.
A few days ago, we went to a play school, where the children were tiny!! But they all called me by my name, and fed me biscuits (Yummy!!!). They made greeting cards with my picture on them, and showed them to me, and I was so proud to see those pictures of myself!
It’s fun to be a therapy dog! I love having children petting me (Gently please)! They are so happy to be with us, because they know we are happy to see them. Sometimes, it’s a little scary when a group of kids come rushing up, but when this happened to me, I went and stood next to my therapist Aditi, who understood what was happening and diverted the kids. We have to trust and depend on each other. And I know she’s always there for me.
I’m new to this. So I do make mistakes. But a quick lick at my therapist’s hand and I get immediate reassurance in some way. She senses when I feel tired, and asks one of the volunteers to give me water or take me for a short stroll to relax. Everything is a new adventure for me. So I go on my way, with my tail a-wagging.
Life is so good now! As I go to sleep at night, I can hear the laughter of the children as they learn my name, Lucky. I AM Lucky. This is my reality now. I live with my family who loves me, in a home, with my sisters. I have a job that I love, and ….Slowly I drift off to sleep with a smile on my face ….. and the knowledge that I will never again be alone.